Ever ask yourself if you should give up writing?

Writing is an endurance test, especially where the novel is concerned and it requires sacrifice and a great deal of time and effort. In the face of the publishing industry’s vagaries, conflicts between the time we need and what we can do alongside our other responsibilities and in light of our own lack of confidence, we can really begin to wonder if dedicating ourselves to writing and a dream of publication is the right choice.

For a variety of reasons it’s been a very difficult few years and when energy is low, deciding whether it’s right to spend that precious energy and a huge proportion of time on a pursuit that often makes you question yourself is an important consideration. Like so many writers I have wailed and moaned that the writing is not going well, or should I even bother. This is especially relevant on my current project which is a monster of a thing (now at 140,000 words, woohoo!) requiring intense dedication.

In this article I look at how we can decide whether or at what level to pursue the writing endeavour if you’d like to read it.  Please share with me here the difficult or challenging choices you have made in either choosing to write or in leaving it behind. I would be grateful to hear how people have made these decisions.

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7 comments

  1. It’s a stressful road, for sure. I love writing, the act of it. I’m not so fond of the surrounding hustle. I get crazy, stressed, sick sometimes. The peripherals (rejection, dealing with publishers, pr etc.) are not for the faint hearted. For some people, success looks like a peak but it’s not. It’s just another bump on a very up and down road.

    1. Hi Nuala, not having been traditionally published (well, in novel form at least) I know that there is a vague kind of dream we sometimes have of being published (a bit like the idea of ‘having a baby would be lovely’!! before the true reality, positive and negative kicks in). As you’ve mentioned, I’ve heard enough around the industry to realise how right you are that success is ‘just another bump on a very up and down road’. There seems to be so much focus on pushing and pushing and ‘making it’ but I just wanted to acknowledge that we need to consider, more widely, the entire picture of your life, balancing out the sacrifices for writing with the other aspects of life that matter to us.

  2. Great article, Alison. A lot of it resonates with me – the writing life really is an endurance test and much of it is learning to be patient, to trust the work, and to trust yourself – whilst attending to everything else in life (family, work, bills, health….). It’s good to have these difficulties named – it’s not all about the readings, festivals, and smiles as portrayed sometimes by the media.

    1. Very, very well said Shauna but often difficult to gain that perspective and let ourselves off the hook for the times when ‘attending to everything else’ can detract too much energy from writing. An interesting angle I might explore in another post is that interplay of the the excitement and energy that pursuing a passion can bring versus how ‘real life’ can impinge on what is possible artistically. No-one likes to admit it but we do have limits. I suppose I’ve talked before about how to fit writing around your life but I’m thinking of a wider view too.

  3. I loved your article, and this is a question I ask myself frequently. The bottom line is that I love the writing itself but I don’t love all the stuff that surrounds it – the waiting, the disappointments, etc. And sometimes when I get caught up in the latter I forget the former. I actually wrote a blog post about this recently – I did a daily micro fiction challenge last month and, after getting bogged down in the whole process of submitting my first novel, the challenge reminded me how much I actually love the process of writing. I guess I only get so frustrated because I care so much about writing and about this crazy dream of mine, and anything that can make me feel so strongly – in both positive and negative ways – has to be worth pursuing. For better or worse.

    1. Thanks Julie, as I mentioned to you on Twitter, your article (here is the link everyone https://juliejamisonwriter.wordpress.com/2017/07/02/polaroid-prose-challenge-final-week-or-how-i-learned-to-stop-worrying-and-trust-the-process/) really resonated with me as I’ve found flash fiction to be a way of producing quickly, giving me a sense of completion and achievement and allowing me to get direct feedback (on sites like Fictionaut or by participating in Friday Flash peer reviews. I decided at the beginning of the year to really push forward on a very difficult and long novel but between drafts I have a very beloved flash fiction novella project that I’m working on. This project gives me a welcome boost – like a glucose drink in a marathon! Very often writing involves finding ways to inject energy. In this article today I wanted also to look at how we need to access our whole situation to see what is possible and appropriate so we don’t berate ourselves unnecessarily.

  4. Thanks Alison, such a sensible approach. I keep meaning to print out helpful articles that offer perspective at difficult points in the writing journey and pin them up somewhere to refer to when I’m feeling disillusioned or unsure, and I’m going to start with yours!

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